By: Linda Rosencrance
If you’re looking to advance your career working with Microsoft Dynamics AX, then industry and technical experience are key.
With an ongoing shortage of skilled candidates for DynamicsAX-focused roles, job seekers who can put together the right combination of skills and experience ought to find a range of opportunities opening up before them, from independent consulting to employment at a Microsoft partner an AX customer.
And one of the important steps for people looking to begin specializing in the product is to gain the right Microsoft certifications.
From Basic AX User to Pro
Getting a Dynamics AX-focused job requires product knowledge, says Amer Dalain, director, AX Practice at Integral US, a Dallas-based consultancy that also offers Dynamics training courses.
“You have to know about the product, its features and the technology,” he says. “And this can be acquired by getting training and doing the certification.”
Going through the certification process can help people move from being basic Dynamics AX users to becoming real AX professionals, Dalain says.
Here’s an example of how that works: A company that is implementing Dynamics AX chooses a core team from each of the appropriate departments. That core team is involved with the implementation from day one, working with the consultants until the project is completed. Then, after go live, the core team takes on the duties of supporting the entire business.
“Before you know it, these core team members realize that they know everything-they know the product because they’ve been playing with it for so long,” Dalain says. “Then they realize that maybe they can be consultants. And that’s how it works. So people go and get certified.”
On the technical side, a lot of the best Dynamics AX developers come from a .NET coding background and transition to Dynamics AX, says Toby Ukandu, Dynamics AX Account Executive at Computer Futures, a technology recruitment and consulting firm.
“For people who have more of a functional skillset, it really just depends on what their specialties are,” he says. “For the financials piece of it, we see a lot of people who come from an accounting background. Also for people who may have a heavy focus in a certain industry like manufacturing or retail from an operational business process standpoint [that use Dynamics AX], we see a lot of people transition to AX from there.”
Three Training Options
Microsoft offers three options for training to help people along the road to Dynamics AX certification, according to Dalain.
“The first is instructor-led training at various locations, such as Fargo, North Dakota,” he says. “This training can be done online or in person. There are private companies that also offer these instructor-led training.”
The second option is via Microsoft’s Learning Partners program, which is basically a collection of online materials that Microsoft has built and recorded and structured by certification.
“So you have, for example, manufacturing certification for AX,” Dalain says. “You go there, you find the course, the curriculum, the content, and videos.”
The third option is through certification guides that Microsoft publishes,” he says. “Those are simply PDF books that you download and read to prepare for the certification tests.”
For his part, Ukandu says the best training is provided through the partner channel as well as through the training that Microsoft offers directly. “[People find value] through the training that you see in the partner channel and the different methods they have as well as on-the-job training that you get from being with someone more senior than you,” he says.
The Certification Exams
Currently, Microsoft is only offering certification tests for Dynamics AX 2012, Dalain says – not yet for the new AX. The certification exam you should take depends on your track. Each exam costs $150.
“If you are programmer, or a developer or a technical resource, you’ll focus on the technical [certifications] like Development Introduction and Installation and Configuration,” he says. “If you are more on the functional side, then you go into the Financials certification, or Trade and Logistics or Manufacturing, depending on what sector [you work in]. There are some people who study both the technical and the functional.”
Ukandu says the development certifications are key to helping people with development backgrounds stay on top of the latest technology and the newest updates. People who are in the more functional areas, should focus on the certifications that pertain to the industries they are interested in, e.g., retail, financials, or trade and logistics.
Dalain says that sometimes Microsoft offers do-overs to people who fail the exams the first time.
“This is a special offer-it’s not always on,” he says. “What happens is people sit for test the first time and they don’t know what to expect so they fail. So Microsoft gives them another chance.”
Because Microsoft Dynamics AX certification is recognized around the world, there are no shortage of job opportunities.
“If you go on to any career board website and you just type in Dynamics AX, you will get hundreds of results of companies-consulting partners, implementation partners and end-user companies-looking for that skillset,” Dalain says. “It’s a scarce, scarce skillset.”
Ukandu agrees that the Dynamics AX skillset is very rare.
“Even though Dynamics AX has been out for a number of years, it’s still a rare skillset,” he says. “X++ programming is a very rare skillset. But more than that, just finding good, talented people within [the Dynamics AX ecosystem] is very important. What we’re seeing now is industry specialization being very important. So people who have worked in life science companies or a number of different projects in retail or manufacturing-those skillsets are being sought out by companies in those areas because they want people who understand their business.”